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The Fly
1986 - R - Mins.
Director: David Cronenberg
Producer: Stuart Cornfeld
Written By: Charles Edward Pogue, David Cronenberg
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz, Les Carlson, George Chuvalo
Review by: John Ulmer
There hasn't been quite as difficult a film to review as The Fly in a long, long while. I quite enjoyed many aspects of the film, but there were some elements that seemed to be lacking. While the evolution from man to fly was interesting, there were so many in-between subjects that seemed to slow down the film quite a bit. The entire tale seemed a bit...well...fake. Although that may be the idea.

It is, of course, a retelling of the 1958 classic of the same name, which was a bit tongue-in-cheek and ten times more corny than David Cronenberg's 1986 remake, which seems to take itself a bit too heavy at times. The 1986 version is a very, very gory film. Imagine the abilities of a giant man-fly who spews a decomposing acid from his mouth in order to turn his prey into liquid so he can then drink them. If that sounds a bit uncomfortable for you, The Fly is not your movie. But this will enthuse die-hard gore fans, the type of fans who like gore in their stories more than the story itself.

I liked the setup. Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is a socially outcast scientist, who - like in all mad scientist movies - has managed to make an amazing machine that thousands of scientists combined couldn't even begin to create. But he can, because he's the Mad Scientist. When Ronnie (Geena Davis), a reporter for Particle magazine, is shown his newest invention, she decides to devote her life to chronicling the events and experiments of Brundle, in hopes of writing a book when it is all over and done and exploiting him for all he is worth.

You see, Brundle has created something marvelous: A giant, designer phone booth, a.k.a. a "transporter," which can transport "non-animate objects" from one phone booth to another. It is run by a large computer console which has a large LCD interface, contains extra-large font (just in case the scientists don't have good eyes), and can solve complex algorithms like, "What is two plus two?" and so on and so forth. There are two large pods: One the subject goes into, and another the subject is transported to through a series of connecting wires along the floor (consider it a large fax machine). And just like in all mad scientist movies, the mad scientist, frustrated that his machine isn't working correctly (as seen in any movie about mad scientists with never-before-seen creations), decides to try it out himself, and whaddaya know, it works (just his luck). Brundle gets transported from one pod to another. But when Brundle gets transported, so does a small fly that has sneaked into the teleporter. The computer is programmed to transport one being, it has no idea what to do with the leftovers, so it combines them together. After the fusion process is complete, Brundle is no longer Brundle. He is "Brundlefly," part-man, part-fly. Over the weeks to come, Brundle's fingernails fall off, he gains incredible strength and energy, and he starts to grow strange, black hairs over his body.

Ronnie is skeptical about it all, she gets the hairs analyzed and comes to face the facts: They aren't human. She tries to tell Seth but at this time has has no idea the fly was ever in the machine. "You're jealous!" he yells at her, only to turn around and look in the mirror and realize something is wrong with his face. He's ugly. Well, uglier than he used to be.

This is a very basic update of the cliched Mad Scientist tale. After Ronnie realizes she is pregnant with Brundlefly's offspring, she tries to have an abortion, but Brundlefly leaps through a glass window (he is now super-fly, despite the unheard fact that flies are weaker than humans), picks her up, and carries her off into the night sky, trying to preserve his baby. A giant fly crawling skyscrapers with a woman in his arms? King Fly would be a better title for this movie.

The ending is extremely predictable, not to mention darn (stero)typical. How many times have we seen the heroine in danger from a mutating monster bent on destroying her? Too much, that's how much.

David Cronenberg is a talented director, it seems, but he relies too much on gore and faked romance to carry the story, rather than a strong narrative. The beginning setup was fun - it showed a Mad Scientist with a bit more depth, a Mad Scientist who seemed to have a bit more backdrop to him than the usual over-achiever-scientist-turned-freak. But alas, the end resorted to gore, gore, and more gore. You could call it an homage to the classics. I call it crap.

I enjoyed much of The Fly, but there were certain elements I couldn't get around. The screenplay seemed forced in certain areas, as well as the relationship between Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. No sparks flew at all. Why would a woman like her want a geeky scientist like him? Ironically they were married in real life during the filming of this movie. The horror.

The Fly spawned a camp sequel directed by the creature effects artist on both films, Chris Walas. I enjoyed the second film more, I think, because I expected something horrible and found the film to be fun. I expected a lot from The Fly and got nothing in return. I liked the gore, but it seemed to be the only thing going for it by the end of the film. Show me a film with more gore than The Fly and I'll show you a puddle of vomit.
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

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